Thinking Anglicans

Wycliffe Hall: Peter Stanford writes

The Independent’s Education section has a feature on Wycliffe Hall, written by Peter Stanford: Fear and loathing at Wycliffe: Oxford’s theological college is being rocked to its foundations.


  • petrus says:

    I wonder which ‘insiders’ Peter Stanford has spoken to, because the ones I know don’t think this is anything to do with a ‘personality clash’ ‘Personality clash’ suggests the contest is between two of equal weight. But pit a bully against a gentle academic, and guess who wins.

  • Pluralist says:

    Well there was nothing really new in this article at all. As for changing of the guard, regarding raising academic and administrative standards, the message seemed to be less on teaching the full range of theology and more on training for church planting. Well that purpose does not need a connection with the University of Oxford. In my view, if priests and ministers are in any special way carriers of the tradition then they should learn the full range of theology in an educational and critical sense, as a base for a continuing, well read, reflective, ministry. This is not the same thing as turning over the numbers.

  • Peter Carrell says:

    I wonder if Peter Stanford has actually visited the Wycliffe Hall it was my privilege to visit last week or talked to any staff and students? I found Wycliffe to be a place of grace, welcome, and kind hospitality mixed with enthusiasm for clear thinking and careful scholarship. Perhaps ‘fear and loathing’ belongs to the secular world concerned that a theological hall might be successful in its engagement with the challenge of training first-class ministers of the gospel for the twenty-first century!

  • philbody says:

    Why does the writer say that neither side is prepared to turn the other cheek? How does he know? What makes him think that there has been no attempt by those on the side of the angels to get a mediator or reconciler, only to have this ignored by the powers that are? Could it be yet again that when only one side can talk, the journalists talk to the wrong people?

  • Philbody raises a point that is not restricted to Wycliffe Hall.

    Namely that there are no accountable channels for communicating grievances, to gain a hearing or a response. I have personal experience and anecdotal evidence from others that you are meant to follow the chain of authority.

    But if the chain of authority is hostile, your correspondence simply disappears into a black hole as though it never existed.

    Then we get the joy of seeing how long we can endure the hate sermons carefully explaining to parishioners why we are amongst the 95% of parishioners condemned to hell.

    Bluntly, looking at who control the keys to “Jesus” mansion’s many rooms, I would rather be in hell. At least that way I know I am in for abuse and it doesn’t come as a suprise.

  • Paul Frost says:

    To reassure Pluralist a full range of theology is indeed taught at Wycliffe. A substantial number of ordinands complete the 3 year Oxford BA in Theology in 2 years (taught entirely at the University). Others do the 3 year Oxford BTh taught at Wycliffe and examined by the University – therefore necessitating breadth and a critical approach. Obviously less academic theology is covered by some who can train for only 2 years yet this is a restraint on all CoE ordinands who are over 30. Preaching, church planting etc is taught in addition to ‘theology proper’ for lack of a better phrase. I have found Wycliffe to be theologically stimulating and not at all about turning over numbers… Now I must get back to the essay!

  • Frozenchristian says:

    The Chair of another college’s governing body has commented elsewhere that Christian organizations are often poor at having in place good employment policies and procedures.

    If Turnbull thinks he can, as a new principal, put pressure on staff to leave then he is likely to face an employment tribunal for constructive dismissal. There are already several other Christian organizations who have been taken to a tribunal by former employees and as far as I know the cases were never won by the institution – often settled before getting to the court. Such cases include poor practice regarding hiring as well as firing staff.

    Should not Christian organizations lead the way in good employment practice?

  • L Roberts says:

    Why are church colleges and other bodies so abusive ?

    I should know — I was at Salisbury when Principal Reggie Askew was doing his worst — unchecked.

  • Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    Re: theological colleges and ‘abuse’.

    I remember the VP of mine complaining about the autocracy of the Principal and Trustees. There’s a structural problem not dissimilar to the one in the wider church, that the persons with managerial authority are also part of the pastoral chain.

    Inevitably, apart from a selected number of ‘golden boys and girls’ who are permitted to be enfants terribles, a high premium is placed on a conformity which reinforces the self-perception of the institution.

    Cuddesdon in my time didn’t know what to do with theology graduates, and yet prided itself on high and demanding academic standards – so when I breezed the lot and was able to spend my time doing things which interested me, it went down like a lead maniple. The principal’s accusation of laziness and lack of commitment still stands somewhere in my files….

    Had I gone to his ‘prayer and praise’ sessions on a Thursday evening, no doubt all would have been well:-)

  • Malcolm+ says:

    re: abusiveness in church bodies:

    Part of the problem, of course, is that people within such bodies believe that they are working for some higher purpose. At it’s best, this is a good thing. At it’s worst, it becomes an excuse for every sort of bullying excess. After all, if I’m doing this for God, then surely the ends justifies.

    Indeed, the “conservatives” don’t argue that their pastoral poaching is allowed based on any sort of ecclesiology or coherent theology, but rather it is right because they are right.

    Doing God’s work is a messy business.

  • NP says:

    I see some on TA still desperately hoping to get Dr Turnbull out……but he is still there but do carry on the bleating about employment law etc etc if it cheers you up

  • Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    NP urged us to continue ‘bleating about employment law’

    Doesn’t it matter to you that a Christian institution appears indifferent to legislation such as this? At what level should Christians be subject to secular law, I wonder…?

  • NP says:

    Mynster – would you have had the apostles bow to the law and stop practising their faith in the first few years after the resurrection?

    I am sure you would not…..and clearly, while we are called to respect and live under the law, like Daniel and many others, there comes a time for bravery and being willing to say what our faith requires of us……many, as you know, have had to put faith before the law and have ended up in prison as a result……so the CU are in good company, I think

  • Ford Elms says:

    “At what level should Christians be subject to secular law, I wonder…?”

    But you have an answer for that, NP. And I’m really sorry for you that no-one is threatening your life for being a Christian. You actually confirm something I have believed about Evangelicals for a long time: many (some?, most?) of you yearn for a good old fashioned persecution so you can show how faithful you are by not recanting. Oh for an Imperial altar I can refuse to burn incense on! Bishops in the early Church warned their flocks against this, NP, because there were some (humans don’t change after all) who would provoke the pagans and declare their Christianity not only publically, but aggressively (sound familiar?) seeking martyrdom. It is vainglory, and old word for a very prevalent sin.

  • mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    Ah yes, the apostles DID refuse to do what they were supposed to do under the religious authorities….

  • NP says:

    so, what is your point, Ford??
    – some people have a martyrdom complex…..therefore allow people to be ordained even if their teaching and lifestyle contradict scripture and the agreed positions of the CofE???

    This does not follow

  • Ford Elms says:

    No, NP, my point was that you obviously have a martyr complex. I was attempting to point out, sarcastically I admit, that perhaps you ought to look at this in yourself. You think you are standing for Gospel truth, and assailed by the world because of it. It’s delightfully romantic, but it’s vainglorious all the same. You seem consitutionally unable to examine yourself and your behaviour. Reviling is mentioned in at least one of the verses that condemns homosexuality, yet you would happily commit one while being willing to split the Church over the other!

  • NP says:

    Ford – I am sure you have read how St Paul talks about false teachers – you would have to talk to him about “reviling”…..but he would tell you something like 1Cor5:12 or even Gal 5:12 ……..we have to judge and weigh all teaching to see if it is right or wrong…..we cannot be lemons, not able to make a decision on the truth or falsehood of teaching – especially when it contradicts thousands of years of teaching and tradition PLUS most scholars and ordinary Anglicans’ current understanding of scripture.

    I keep on asking for a positive biblical case for what you want to justify…..but none comes, just criticism of me or others – which may be right or wrong but does not a positive case constitute.

    Your response to my repeated question is to say things like “don’t revile”, “don’t you realise how people are suffering”, “don’t judge”, “look at your hypocrisy” and now the very amusing “martyr complex” assertion etc etc ……. this is what I mean when I say the AC has not had convincing during the LISTENING process in the last few decades……

    Even the liberal ABC says the bible says nothing positive for the innovation you want the AC to accept so I know it is a difficult question….but it remains…..what is the positive case from scripture for the innovation that you want, showing it to be good and holy?

  • Ford Elms says:

    “what you want to justify” “the innovation you want the AC to accept”

    Which would be what, NP? I don’t think I’ve ever argued in favour of any innovation. Gay marriage? Nope. As a matter of fact, I’ve often expressed my reservations over it. Gay clergy? Well, I have stated that +VGR was duly elected, which he was, but that’s a far cry from saying that I have no issues over it. So what am I trying to force the Church to accept? If exhorting a fellow Christian to behave in a more Christian manner (and I believe we are enjoined to do that in Scripture) is a sin , then I plead guilty. I also plead guilty to not practicing what I preach in that regard! As to judging truth from falsehood, that’s for the Church to do, not you and me as individuals, NP, and the Church is in the process of doing that, so what’s the problem?

  • NP says:

    Well, Ford, if you agree it is for the church to say what its positions are – given we have Lambeth 1.10 and some feel completely free to ignore it and even subvert it despite their vows to uphold church teachiing…..I was referring to your apparent support for ignoring the teaching of the church on the presenting issue.

    I respect your position on marriage. Not sure the fact VGR was elected means much (in biblical terms)

  • Ford Elms says:

    “your apparent support for ignoring the teaching of the church”

    And how is that apparent? What about your ignoring of the teaching of the Church? You seem to have an innovative understanding of priesthood for one thing, you see no need to split the Church because some clergy are divorced and remarried, you don’t have a problem with usury, which goes against 1500 years or more of Church teaching. And are you really saying that Lambeth ’98 is equivalent to an Ecumenical Council, or was in any way a body designed to set doctrine?

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